A large Jewish family gathers for a Passover Seder anxiously prepared by matriarch Peggy (Lesley Ann Warren) for prodigal son Ethan (Max Greenfield) in "When Do We Eat?," a kook-fest directed by Salvador Litvak from a script he co-wrote with his wife, Nina Davidovich. With bankruptcy, Ethan has found religion and insists on keeping kosher. So the secular Stuckmans — angry dad Ira (Michael Lerner) manufactures Christmas ornaments — find themselves reluctantly keeping kosher and spending the evening in a garden tent. Litvak and Davidovich further burden the Stuckmans with a sex therapist daughter (Shiri Appleby), a druggie son (Ben Feldman), an autistic son (Adam Lamberg), a resentful lesbian daughter (Meredith Scott Lynn) from Ira's first marriage, an annoying celebrity publicist cousin (Mili Avital), a gloomy Holocaust survivor grandfather (Jack Klugman) and a one-eyed Israeli tent-builder (Mark Ivanir) who may or may not be Peggy's lover. The mishigas kicks into high gear when Zeke, the druggie, doses his father's Mylanta with Ecstasy. Bickering, conciliation and biblical hallucinations ensue. A self-consciously zany dysfunctional family comedy, "When Do We Eat?" strains so hard to be outrageous that it sacrifices characters for caricatures. They might have had something if they'd let everybody relax, be themselves and enjoy dinner.
"When Do We Eat?" Rated R for drug use, language and some sexual content. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. Exclusively at Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills (310) 247-6869; Media Center 8, 201 E. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, (310) 289-4AMC; Town Center, 17200 Ventura Blvd.; Encino (818) 981-9811; Westside Pavilion, 10800 Pico Blvd. at Overland Avenue, (310) 281-8223; One Colorado, 42 Miller Alley (inside plaza, Fair Oaks at Union Avenue), Pasadena (626) 744-1224. 'One Last Ride' doesn't pay off Patrick Cupo writes and stars in "One Last Ride," the tale of a man risking everything to his compulsive gambling on horse races, based on his own stage play. That the story comes from experiences in Cupo's own family while growing up in New Jersey seems the only possible rationalization for one of the film's main idiosyncrasies — although it is shot and set in and around Los Angeles, nearly all the characters have East Coast accents thicker than the extras on "The Sopranos." Similarly, Cupo's script never quite settles on a point of view, toggling wildly from the wise-guy mechanics of loan sharks and race forms to the personal concerns of an expectant wife and a steady job. "One Last Ride" is executive produced by Ang Lee, and it's not hard to feel the film wants to capitalize on the acclaim for "Brokeback Mountain." Director Tony Vitale, best know for "Kiss Me Guido," gamely tries to keep pace with Cupo's erratic storytelling and struggles to convey the inner life of Cupo's character. All he can come up with are lame race-day montages and an appallingly inappropriate series of electronica-based music cues. As a performer, Cupo does convey a sense of feral desperation, a wounded need, with unnerving authenticity. The gambler's compulsion to go again, to believe truly that the next bet will be the one, becomes an analogy for the struggling actor's need to believe that making it big is always just one good part away.
— Mark Olsen
"One Last Ride," unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. Exclusively at Beverly Center Cinema, 8522 Beverly Blvd., (310) 652-5256. A tribute to Charles Busch John Catania and Charles Ignacio's "The Lady in Question Is Charles Busch," an affectionate tribute to the drag artist who has been a Manhattan institution for more than 20 years. From a struggling solo performer who acted all the parts in his plays, Busch first gained acclaim in 1984 with "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom," the initial production of his Theater-in-Limbo, staged at an East Village dive. Slim, red-wigged and glamorously gowned, Busch is a gifted comedian with crisp timing and a master of pathos underlying the outrageousness of heroines inspired by Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck.
In 2000 Busch scored a Broadway triumph with "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife," drawn from his experiences with an opera- and movie-loving father, two sisters, mother and an aunt who, after his mother died, whisked him from the suburbs to New York. Early on, Busch was informed he was "too odd, too gay" and realized he would have to write his own material.
The film, which has a generous selection of clips, begins with the "Allergist's" opening and proceeds through Busch's subsequent brush with death from a ripped aorta and eventually his recovery and comeback. Near the end of "The Lady in Question" Busch explains that "putting on the dress means nothing to me," his performances are his way of keeping his family and the spirit of those stars alive.
— Kevin Thomas
"The Lady in Question Is Charles Busch," Unrated. (1:24) Exclusively at the Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 848-3500.